Trump lays out new coronavirus testing 'blueprint'

President Donald Trump on Monday announced a new federal coronavirus testing "blueprint" to aid governors in ramping up capacity as a handful of states begin lifting stay-at-home restrictions.

Trump, who was not originally scheduled to hold a press briefing, billed the plan as part of the administration's push for a "phased and very safe reopening" of the U.S. over the next few months. He said the plan includes provisions for expanding state testing capacity and establishing widespread monitoring systems as well as contact tracing.

"We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity and confident that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process," Trump said from the White House Rose Garden. "We're deploying the full power and strength of the federal government to help states cites to help local governments get this horrible plague over with and over with fast."

Trump said that the federal government and the private sector will work closely with state, local and tribal governments to achieve these goals. The president then invited executives from companies involved in expanding testing capacity, including Quest Diagnostics, U.S. Cotton, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid and Kroger, to speak.

Despite Trump's eagerness to reopen the country — and a few states already beginning the process of reopening — Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that the U.S. needs a "breakthrough" on coronavirus testing to combat the virus' spread.

Birx said current diagnostic testing, which analyzes a sample from someone's nose or mouth for evidence of the live virus, can "carry us through the spring and summer."

But she added that there needs to be a significant breakthrough with antigen testing, which can discover whether someone has already sickened with COVID-19 and can help "screen large numbers of individuals quickly." Birx said the task force intends to continue working with states to scale up testing for those who are ill.

Most Americans remain under stay-at-home orders. Some governors, including New York's Andrew Cuomo, are pushing to significantly expand testing in their states before committing to a timeline for reopening and have objected to Trump's previous claims that states are already conducting a sufficient level of tests.

"Testing isn't going to be a problem at all," Trump predicted Monday.

Trump also said he has expanded Medicare to make it easier for seniors to pay for coronavirus testing and allowed governors to authorize Medicaid to cover tests.

Birx said at the briefing Monday that the intent is to make sure each state reaches its respective capacity for testing, implements a system to monitor high-risk individuals, such as seniors, and has a contact tracing strategy to slow the spread.